Firearms Safety

March 8, 2008 at 3:24 am (Guns)

As a firearms instructor and former competitor, unsafe behavior around firearms REALLY bothers me. A recent unfortunate event in Georgia, where a former police officer ‘accidentally’ shot and killed his wife at a family home. More troubling still is that the room where the ‘accident’ happened had another cop, as well as a 911 dispatcher. An occasionally heated discussion involving a few family members that were there took place at Shooting The Messenger blog. While some of the comments may border on offensive, especially considering the loss of this family, it has been very instructive as to the mindset that allows this kind of ‘accident’ to happen.

The sequence of events (reconstructed from comments) appears to be:

  • Something went wrong with the firearm, and it jammed
  • A magazine was inserted
  • The firearm was passed from one person to another
  • It was ‘tapped’ on the table, causing it to discharge
  • The bullet went through the woman’s arm into her chest, killing her

You’ll notice that I put ‘accident’ in quotes – because with firearms there are NEVER any fatal accidents, only negligence. That’s because of the NRA firearms rules that I teach and practice. They are:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

The phrasing may appear to be awkward at first, but there is a very good psychological reason for it. If you notice, all of the rules are ‘positive’ actions, which you can conceptualize immediately. If any of them had a ‘never’ or ‘don’t’, your brain must first construct the action and then negate it.

For those trained in the military or by instructors trained in the military, another set of rules may be more familiar.

  1. All guns are always loaded!
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy!
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target!
  4. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond!

I prefer the NRA rules because they are simpler, positive, and progressive. Following either set of rules will keep you safe.

So, to analyze the rules….

1 – ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

It is possible for mechanical failures to occur. I’ve had a few happen to me. Following rule 1 ensures that nobody gets hurt if/when they do. There are situations where there is no safe direction, and firearms shouldn’t be handled then. If everyone followed ONLY this rule, accidental or negligent discharges wouldn’t injure or kill anyone.

2 – ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Under normal circumstances, a properly maintained firearm will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Keeping your finger outside the trigger guard ensures that the trigger isn’t pulled accidentally. When police forces switched from revolvers to semi-autos, many chose the Glock as the replacement. For quite a while, the Glock had the reputation of going off ‘all by itself’. This was shown to be false. What was actually happening was that the officers were used to the long double action trigger pull of their revolvers, and were resting their fingers on the trigger. As designed, it would fire when the trigger was pulled.

Here are two instances of officers having ‘accidents’. An officer nearly kills a suspect while he is on the ground being handcuffed. And another idiot officer in a room full of kids – just after he says ‘I’m the only one in this room professional enough to carry a Glock .40’ – Bang, he shoots himself in the leg with an ‘unloaded’ gun.

3 – ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Another no-brainer. If you are not actively using it, unload it. Depending on your circumstances, ‘use’ may mean different things. A hunting rifle kept in a cabinet is ‘used’ differently than a match pistol, which is used differently than a firearm kept for self defense.

The most dangerous situation is when someone is handling a firearm and has lost respect for it. Complacency and overconfidence lead to carelessness, which leads to accidents. Just ask any four-fingered carpenter.

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Fits said,

    “…it has been very instructive as to the mindset that allows this kind of ‘accident’ to happen.”

    And thats it in a nutshell, my friend.

    The old bromide of “accidents happen, so what?” is what causes such negligence to begin with.

    I’ve been told in comments as well as email that I am ‘lucky’ never to have had such an accident, and my retort to such nonsense is the fact that luck has nothing to do with being careful.

    There are those who simply don’t and won’t get-it.

  2. Elaine said,

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said.

    What a sad thing though for this family. How do you deal with the knowledge that one’s negligence took another’s life, especially if that someone is very close like a spouse is?

    I’ll be forwarding this to my husband and a good friend, they diffinitely share your views on fire arms, not computers though – they tend to believe they are evil contraptions that are better suited for target practice 😆

  3. capitalggeek said,

    “How do you deal with the knowledge that one’s negligence took another’s life, especially if that someone is very close like a spouse is?”

    I think the term is ‘denial’ – they keep calling it an ‘accident’. A better description would be reckless, negligent, inattentive, or irresponsible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: